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Review
. 1999 Aug;70(2):183-97.
doi: 10.1093/ajcn.70.2.183.

Geriatric Cachexia: The Role of Cytokines

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Review

Geriatric Cachexia: The Role of Cytokines

S S Yeh et al. Am J Clin Nutr. .

Abstract

Weight loss in elderly patients is a common clinical problem. Wasting and cachexia are associated with severe physiologic, psychologic, and immunologic consequences, regardless of the underlying causes. Cachexia has been associated with infections, decubitus ulcers, and even death. Multivariate analyses of risk and prognostic factors in community-acquired pneumonia in the elderly have found that age by itself is not a significant factor related to prognosis. Among the significant risk factors, only nutritional status is amenable to medical intervention. Cachexia in the elderly may have profound consequences: medical, cognitive, and psychiatric disorders may diminish self-reliance in activities of daily living, thus reducing quality of life and increasing the frequency of secondary procedures, hospitalizations, and the need for skilled care. Cachexia is associated with higher-than-normal concentrations of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), interleukin (IL) 1, IL-6, serotonin, and interferon gamma. The role of these proinflammatory cytokines has been established in the cachexia seen in cancer and AIDS patients. Reduction in the concentrations of these cytokines is associated with weight gain. Drugs that promote appetite stimulation and weight gain, such as progestational agents, cyproheptadines, pentoxifylline, and thalidomide may work by down-regulating these proinflammatory cytokines. An understanding of the relation between cachexia and negative regulatory cytokines may point to effective treatment of geriatric cachexia as well.

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